A former Vatican ambassador to Washington has called for Pope Francis to resign over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against a prominent cardinal in 2013.
In a statement on Sunday, former Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said he told the Pope about allegations of sexual abuse against high-profile American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick five years ago, but that the Pontiff did nothing about it.
“He [Pope Francis] knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator,” Vigano said in the lengthy statement dated August 22, adding, “although he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered him to the bitter end.”
“It was only when he was forced by the report of the abuse of a minor, again on the basis of media attention, that he took action [regarding McCarrick] to save his image in the media,” Vigano continued.
Vigano, who retired in 2016 at age 75, called for the Pontiff to resign over his failure to act. “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example to Cardinals and Bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” he said.
McCarrick, 88, who once led the Archdiocese of Washington and was a force in American politics, resigned last month after a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse of a teenage altar boy. The Pope also ordered McCarrick’s’ suspension from public ministry.
Vigano also says Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl was aware of reports of sexual abuse by his predecessor McCarrick.
“Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C.,” said Vigano.
“In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk,” he added.
Wuerl rejected Vigano’s allegation, and in a statement published by the Catholic News Agency on Sunday says he “did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behaviour or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano.”
Vigano’s statement comes at a delicate time for Pope Francis, who is on a visit to Ireland where he has been grappling with the fallout of a Pennsylvania grand jury report into clerical sexual abuse spanning decades, while also meeting with survivors of Ireland’s own sex abuse scandal.